Students on both sides can learn from Rove

Karl Rove’s appearance on campus a mere 27 hours before the polls closed in Missouri was, whether you enjoyed it or not, a useful educational exercise, not just for the College Republicans who invited him, but for democrats, independents and undecided students. Judging by the line of students stretching beyond the Business School waiting to enter Graham Chapel, the rapt—and occasionally disruptive—attention paid to the speaker, Rove’s appearance was worth the $30,000 paid.

But aside from the experience itself, what of Rove’s words? “The Architect” had a few major points to make on the nature of this election. His most obvious point was about its length, almost twice the length of the Bush vs. Gore campaign in 2000. What resonated most from his talk, though was his pointedly unoptimistic outlook for the future. Both presidential candidates made their way onto the ballot by winning not a majority of Americans but a plurality; when there are several strong contenders on both sides, however, this is to be expected. His evaluations of the vice presidential picks, however, was even more bleak: both Palin and Biden, he said, were chosen not because they would complement their respective presidential candidates, but because they filled a need in each party’s propaganda machine. Rove’s cynicism led the rest of his speech, as he highlighted more or less equally the shortcomings of each party, platform and candidate. His party affiliations came out during a heated attack of Joe Biden, but only after he had finished his written speech.

So what are we supposed to glean from this? The unfortunate truth, as he very clearly suggested—that even the campaign of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ has pandered once in a while, that even the best-looking figures have stooped to a lie, and that Americans continue to gullibly follow along. Rove’s outlook certainly is depressing and supports an alarming decline in our trust of the government—but it is also, perhaps, a much needed dose of reality. Rove’s most fervent assertions, aside from Biden’s ineptitudes, were about the unreliability of polls and news spinners. But his final message was about respecting, loving, and staying loyal to your country. Combined, he’s asking Americans to love their country despite its flaws, but also make the effort to distinguish the truth from all the fluff.

Did Rove do this himself? He can easily point out Democratic deficiencies, but he didn’t shy from discussing Republican shortfalls. Yet he did a fair amount of spinning himself, not just with summary of the vice presidential candidates, but also with his laundry list of Bush accolades. Of course, Rove does not have to be bi-partisan, nor is anyone asking him to be.

What’s missing from his message of awareness, however, is solutions. He declined to comment on if either presidential candidate will successfully handle any of the crises headed our way. Rove has washed his hands of that aspect, and happily so; he’s no longer “Turdblossom,” he’s a journalist; he gets to do the complaining and leave the solutions to someone else. As students who can easily fall into the same trap, we should all remind ourselves that sometimes a bit of cynicism is necessary to keep us aware of our surroundings; however, that’s no reason to abandon the innate endearment of the Rove’s nickname, which reminds us that even out of the foulest cow patty can emerge a flower.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.